When people think of Italian food, nutrition is not often the first thing that comes to mind.
When I think of Italian food, I think of Romeo’s, a pizzeria and restaurant in my hometown that serves everything from pizza by the slice and fresh subs to baked ziti and rigatoni ala vodka.
I think of Giada De Laurentiis’ classic Italian lasagna made with homemade tomato sauce, homemade bechamel sauce, beef, spinach and three different kinds of cheese.
I also think of Italian friends whose Sunday dinners and holiday meals can best be described as “carbs on carbs on carbs.”
That’s why it’s truly a gift to all of us that there is a new Italian cookbook to help us satisfy our Italian food cravings with more nutrition and just the right amount of carbs.
The Transamerica Center for Health Studies is a nonprofit dedicated to helping employers and consumers achieve the best value and protection from their health coverage. Healthier Traditions: Italian Cookbook is the fourth edition of the Healthier Traditions Cookbook series with 18 recipes created and reviewed by registered dietitians.
I love that each book in the series focuses on a different type of cuisine: Italian, Mexican, American Classics and Soul Food. Even though I love reading big, heavy cookbooks about one type of cuisine, I usually get tired of it before I can cook my way through it — one can only eat so much French food or so many one pan dinners.
Since the Transamerica cookbooks are shorter and every recipe is unique, there is plenty of variety to keep dinner interesting as you cook your way from cover to cover. Home cooks can follow along to make their favorite dishes with cooking videos for selected recipes on the TCHS YouTube Channel.
I have a few Italian recipes bookmarked — a Bolognese sauce that uses zucchini, red lentils and mushrooms to make it hearty and flavorful, but higher in nutrients and an Alfredo sauce that swaps heavy cream for cauliflower to create a rich dish that lacks the fat and sodium of the classic version.
The first recipe that I chose to cook from the Italian classics line up is Minestrone. Chicago’s weather has been…unpleasant for just about everything lately. Everything that is, except for soup. We love soup and this one was a solid, classic recipe that we almost felt virtuous eating.
In the cookbook, you’ll find all kinds of recipe factoids, and I learned that Minestrone soup likely dates back to ancient Rome, where it was originally made of simple vegetables. This recipe definitely delivers on the veggies — it’s packed with carrots, celery, onion, tomatoes and a big bunch of fresh kale. Red kidney beans add protein and pasta — I used Banza elbows made from chickpeas — add that necessary carb fix.
Because this soup has so much flavor and so much nutrition, you don’t even have to feel guilty about piling on the freshly grated parmesan cheese and dunking a piece of soft baguette to soak up extra broth.
This is a sponsored post written on behalf of Transamerica Center for Health Studies, however, all opinions, and addiction to baguettes, are my own.